Archive for the ‘Dairy’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Hard cheese

I have been staring at the cheese in the fridge for such a long time!  Today I decided that it was time to see what was happening inside it.  It was very dry and hard on the outside, but when I pushed the top of it, it still had a lot of movement.  I know from reading that the cheese needs to stand for months to get really hard and I just do not have the patience for that this time around.  So I opened it and here is what I found.


The outside was very hard, then there is a layer of cheese that is almost the texture of Gouda or a soft Cheddar and the middle is not as soft as a Brie or Camembert, but not as hard as a Gouda.  If I had a layer of wax on the outside, the hard crust would not have formed and I would be able to leave the cheese longer to become harder in the middle, but I liked the way it turned out. I liked the softness of the middle and I would make this again especially for that softness. This is a keeper!  James and the girls both liked the cheese as well.  I slice it thin to eat on my salads, the girls like it on crackers with oysters or salsa and James eats it straight up!  It looks like it is time to make some more cheese.

PostHeaderIcon My cheese has cracked!!

hardcheese 2weeks

I am devastated, my first attempt at making a hard cheese is not doing so well. I thought I was being very smart by putting extra weight on it inside the fridge, turns out not so clever! The cheese has a crack all the way through the top. I suppose that is what the cheese wax prevents. Maybe it is time to buy cheese wax for my next attempt. The good news is that it is still drying out and it has no mold, so for now it could technically still be considered a success. I think another week or so will give a good indication of failure or success. Hey, as long as it is hard and edible, in my eyes it’s cheese, right?

PostHeaderIcon An attempt at making Hard Cheese

On the 18th of July, I made a batch of Farmer’s Cheese and put half aside to make a hard cheese. I made a homemade press and was surprised at how well it worked. However, only time will tell if it was good enough.  I left the cheese in the press overnight, and by morning there was no more moisture left on the outside, but the inside still felt soft. I rubbed the outside with salt and wrapped the cheese in clean cloth. For the next 4 days it was in the fridge wrapped up. The next step would be to wax the cheese, but I do not want to buy cheese wax at this early stage of my cheese making. I plan to see if I can make it without the wax.  My hope is that if I leave it in the fridge for the next few weeks, it will dry out and turn into a hard cheese. My biggest concern is that the inside is not dry enough and when I open it after a few weeks the cheese will be bad inside from too much moisture. Here is a picture of my press as well as the cheese on day 5, I will be very surprised if this actually works!



PostHeaderIcon Farmers Cheese Recipe

With the basic soft cheeses under my belt (well almost), I wanted to try something a little more challenging.  Farmer’s cheese is almost like a cottage cheese, but with the whey squeezed out of it.  It then becomes a more dense cheese that can be cut or crumbled into foods.  For us this was a great substitute for goats cheese that we normally buy at Trader Joe’s.  My kids and I love goats cheese, but the price tag can be high.  By making this cheese every other week the kids still have a cheese that they can put on their crackers, I crumble it on my salads and everyone is happy.  I have not made Ravioli for some time, but think I may try to put Farmer’s cheese in it next time.

The recipe that I followed comes from a book I have mentioned before.  The Home Creamery is a favorite of mine at the moment.  My sister happened to read here that I loved the book and for my Birthday she surprised me with a copy!  Thanks, Carla!

The biggest challenge was getting a cheese press and although one can technically make this cheese without the press, I wanted to have a pretty molded cheese.  So I had to make my own press.  The one I made was very basic and could most likely not be used for harder cheeses, although I did try that as well. Here is what I did:

Farmer’s Cheese Recipe

1 gallon whole (full cream milk)
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet
1/4 cup cool water (55′F-60′F)
1-2 teaspoons salt

Heat the milk and yogurt in a large pot over low heat until it reaches a temperature of 95′F.

Dissolve the rennet in the water and stir it into the milk mixture for 30 seconds.  Remove the pot from the heat, cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour or until solid curds form.
Cut the curds into 1 inch pieces.  Heat them along with the whey stirring gently for the first 5 minutes and then every 5 minutes until the mixture reaches a temperature of 120′F.  This can take about 30 minutes.
Line a strainer with double folded cheese cloth or with a butter muslin (smaller openings).  Let the whey drain for 1 hour or until it stops dripping.
Transfer the cheese to a bowl and add the salt, stirring well.
Line two small cheese molds or one large mold with cheese cloth (double layer) and spoon the curds into the molds.
Fold the edges of the cheese cloth over the top and place a 2 pound weight on the top for about 4 hours in the refrigerator.

This is my makeshift press.  I took a medium size bowl and put a smaller bowl on the inside you cannot see the little bowl.  The smaller bowl keeps the press out of whey.  Place a plastic container that has several small holes punched into it.  This allows the whey to run out freely.  Remember to punch holes in the bottom as well.  I then put a small plastic disk on the top of the folded cheese cloth (cut out of the lid of the plastic container) and place a weight on top.  Ideally you want about 2 pounds on the top.

Remove the cheese from the mold and store for up to 1 week.


This is the final product.  The recipe makes about 1 pound of cheese.


Here is another picture of the two presses that I have made.  I used a clean nail that I heated and punched holes into two plastic containers.  Some people use tin cans to do the same, but I have heard that the tin cans can leave a stain on the cheese (plus it’s easier to puncture plastic than tin)
So the next step in cheese making would be to make a hard cheese.  I looked online at recipes and for Gouda and Cheddar the basic ingredients seemed much the same as the Farmer’s cheese.  The biggest difference would be the hard cheese press.  I figured since I already had the Farmer’s cheese, I would keep half for the kids and me to eat and use the other half to see if I can make a hard cheese.  So here is the hard cheese press that I tried out.  In reality for hard cheese you need a press that can press up to 40 pounds.  My little homemade contraption cannot do that, but I figured I would do it anyway and see what happens.  Turns out I have a nice solid piece of cheese and right now it is maturing in the fridge wrapped in its own bandages.  I will take a picture of it in a few weeks and will either toss it due to excessive mold growth or it might surprise me and look like a hard cheese.  Hey, its worth a try right?


James Skyped me today while he was at work and told me that he no longer knows what is edible, fermenting or growing in the fridge and he now finds himself checking this site every morning to see what is safe to eat.  I suppose I would be scared as well if I saw this thing in the fridge and had no idea what it was.  Along with my fermenting Kombuthca in the pantry and my sour dough pet in the fridge, he is feeling somewhat overwhelmed by living foods.

PostHeaderIcon Still learning to make cheese

I am very new to cheese making, but I enjoy learning about it and experimenting.  The first cheese I made was the most basic recipe that you can find.  I found the recipe in a book called 365 Foods Kids Love To Eat.  It is a book of fun, nutritious recipes for kids.  The recipe makes a soft spreadable cheese and is the easiest intro to cheese making.

Basic Homemade Cheese Recipe

1 quart (1 liter) milk
1 lemon
Cheese cloth (available at most grocery stores in the US)

Heat the milk in a saucepan until just before it boils, do not let it boil or rise up.  Remove from the heat and add the juice of 1 lemon, the milk will now start to separate into curds (solids) and whey (clear liquid).
Pour the mixture through a strainer and let the whey run off.
Empty the curds into a piece of double layered cheese cloth and fold the edges up to form a tight ball.  Twist the ball and squeeze the remaining moisture out.  Hang the ball with string above a bowl in the refrigerator for a few hours.  Salt to taste.
Spread on bread or crackers.

Once I successfully made the above recipe I was intrigued and started reading recipes for other soft cheeses.  Another recipe that is also very easy is yogurt cheese in fact this one is even easier to make.

Yogurt cheese

4 cups homemade yogurt or commercial yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
Cheese cloth
Line a strainer with a double layer of cheese cloth.  Spoon the yogurt into the cheese cloth and let it strain for about 30 min to 1 hour at room temperature.

Tie the edges together to form a firm ball and let the yogurt drain (hanging) overnight in the refrigerator.  You can leave it for a few days if you prefer, the longer the yogurt sits the firmer the cheese.
Transfer the cheese to a bowl and stir in the salt.  Cover and keep in the fridge for up to 1 week (probably longer).

The last batch of yogurt cheese I made I divided into two portions.  The first I salted and the second I added a teaspoon of honey.  I much prefer the salted one, the kids and I ate if on crackers.  The honey went slowly since I did not know what to do with it.  We ate some of it on toast, but we much preferred the salty one.

Today I made Farmers cheese, for Farmers cheese you need a cheese press and since I could not find one locally and did not want to buy one online (still being a novice, I do not want to spend a fortune) I had to make one.  I have used it twice now and it works well.  Pictures and instruction will be up tomorrow.

PostHeaderIcon Homemade Butter

This is not a frugal recipe, you could probably buy butter for about the same price that you can make it, but I love trying new things out. The taste of homemade butter is far superior to what you buy in the stores. There is something so thrilling to make a basic kitchen staple such as butter and it is one of the easiest things to do. A few cups of heavy cream and a food processor is all you need. Try it out, it is so easy.

Start out with 2-3 cups of heavy cream in the processor. Turn it on high and let it run 2 minutes. The time that it will take depends on your processor and the amount of cream that you start with. The mixture will go through a few stages. First you will get a light whipped cream, then a stiffer whipped cream and once you pass that stage the mixture will turn a pale yellow color and look something like this.


You will notice the almost crumb-like texture and the buttermilk will separate from the butter. Pour the buttermilk off and continue processing until the butter resembles the picture below.

Once your butter looks like this, it is time to put it in a fine strainer.  Let it hang out for about 2 minutes or until the liquid stops running out of the bottom.


Once most of the buttermilk has been strained, transfer the butter to a glass bowl and either use a potato masher or a fork and mash the butter. You will notice more liquid coming out, pour it of and continue this process until there is no more liquid or you just get too tired and bored like me and say enough already!


I store my butter in small containers covered with plastic wrap.

Now for the fun part! Eating it. Besides the obvious uses of butter in recipes and on your morning toast try adding herbs or other natural flavours to liven it up. Here are a few ideas.

Garlic and chive butter – great on baked and mashed potatoes
Honey butter – great on toast, English muffins and waffles
Mint butter – Add chopped mint to the butter and serve on lamb chops.
Sage butter – Finely chop onion, sage and and add a few drops of lemon juice and serve on veal chops

The first time that I made butter, I had no intention of repeating it.  I knew that it was not much cheaper to make myself than to buy it off the shelf, but there is such a great satisfaction in using my own butter, that this is a keeper.  It is easy enough to make and the kids enjoy helping me make it aswell.

PostHeaderIcon Yogurt Snack Cups


I make these for the kids to compete with the Dora the explorer and Disney Princess yogurt cups that cost a small fortune and are filled with artificial ingredients.  The kids and I picked out small, pretty (very important to my children) mason jars especially for this use.  I let the kids help me and we make about 6 at a time and keep them in the fridge on the bottom shelf and they can get them when they need a snack.  Here is what we do:

Yogurt Snack Cups:

Small, clean mason jars
Frozen fruit of your choice
Plain yogurt

Start by boiling water and pouring it into the jars, rinse and dry them.

I like to use frozen fruit because I always have blue berries and strawberries in the freezer.  We use the frozen fruit in warm oats and breakfast smoothies and it is much cheaper than buying the fruit when it is not in season.

Let your fruit thaw over night in the fridge or thaw it in the microwave (Make sure that you do not heat it since you do not want it to warm up the yogurt when you add it later).  Put as much fruit as you want in the bottom of the jars, I fill ours about 1/4 way with fruit.  Top with yogurt and then put a teaspoon of honey on the top.  Mix it with a spoon and store the sealed jars in the fridge until you need it.

When I stopped buying the store bought yogurt and making these I started with a 1/2 yogurt and 1/2 fruit and loads of honey.  Slowly I started cutting down on the honey and fruit until I found a ratio that the kids like.

You could also use fresh fruit, it is a great way to use up fruit that is soft or almost over ripe.

Cost analysis:
These six cup cost about $0.80 to make depending on the amount of honey and fruit that you use.  Take that Yoplait!

PostHeaderIcon Homemade yogurt recipe

I have been making yogurt every week for a few months now and loving it.  It is the easiest thing to do and everyone in my house will eat it or at least drink it in smoothies. The first time I made yogurt I used a crock pot recipe that has become very popular here in Charlotte on a Natural Living forum.  It is a simple recipe, but I have had mixed results.  The first time I used the crockpot recipe it was great, a little runny, but tasted well and I was ecstatic.  The second time I made it, it curdled and was a disaster. I decided to find a recipe that I could control a little better.  On the same forum someone mentioned a book called, The Home Creamery by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley.  I love this book and take it out of the library every month to try something new.  It really is time that I buy a copy to keep in the house since I use it for making cheese as well.

Below is the link to the crock pot recipe I referred to.  The nice thing about this is that you do not need a thermometer.  I just use my regular kitchen thermometer, but if you do not have one the crockpot recipe is a good alternative.

Crockpot yogurt Recipe

Yogurt Recipe

4 cups (1 quart) milk
¼ cup all natural yogurt (I normally use my own culture from the last batch, but ran out of yogurt this week so I had to buy more)
Clean mason or glass jars
Small to medium size cooler
Cheese cloth and strainer (optional)

In a large pot heat the 4 cups of milk to 185 F or until small bubbles start to form.  Do not let the milk boil.  Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool to between 105 and 115 F.  I normally pour the milk into another container so that it is not sitting in a hot pot and taking longer to cool.


A skin will form on the milk, either scoop if off or leave it and it will be mixed in at the next step.

Once the milk has cooled, pour in your yogurt culture and mix it well with a fork (do not beat).


Rinse the glass jars with boiled water and dry them.  Careful they will be hot!  I use any cleaned jar that I have, as long as it will fit into the cooler.

Pour the mixture into your jars.

Pour boiled water into two smaller jars and put it into the cooler along with you milk filled jars.  This will help keep the cooler at the right temperature.

Leave the cooler over night and the next morning you will have the best tasting homemade yogurt.

If you prefer a thicker yogurt, pour the yogurt into a strainer that has been lined with cheese cloth (most grocery stores have it in the kitchen isle).  Allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or until it is the desired consistency.


Pour off the whey and discard or keep and use in bread recipes as substitute for milk.  I use mine in whey bread rolls that I will post the next time I make the recipe.


Store your yogurt in the fridge, I use the mason jars that I make it in.

You can use the yogurt in many things.  I have made, yogurt cheese, breakfast smoothies, ranch dressing, Tzatziki,  I use it as substitute for sour cream sometimes, and also in salad dressings.  My favorite sweet snack is a few tablespoons of yogurt topped with home made granola.  I also make smaller Yogurt Snack Cups to keep in the fridge until the kids need a snack.

Cost analysis:
Since milk was on sale this week the quart of yogurt (about 3/4 if you strain it like I do, I like mine very thick) cost me a whopping $0.82.  I would love to use organic milk and yogurt for this recipe, but my budget does not allow it, so I use the best products that I can find and if the organic is on sale, I will use it.


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